Video Deck Tech - Vengeance Control (Standard)

Feature Article from Frank Lepore
Frank Lepore
12/14/2011 12:50:00 PM
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Okay, so I know these past two weeks have been flavored with all variety of Grixis decks, but what I have today is a deck that I've become really fond of. I promise, unless something super interesting in the vein of red, black, and blue comes along, I'll change it up next week.

Anyway, our topic today is something I've begun to call Vengeance Control; for one, it differentiates the deck from other version of Grixis decks, such as Chapin's, and for two, it runs Burning Vengeance!

...naw, I'm just kidding. Can you imagine? (Actually, you probably can; I'm not above brewing with Burning Vengeance!) The Vengeance in the title refers to none other than Sorin's Vengeance, or as I've been calling it, Cruel Ultimatum 1.5. It's not nearly as powerful as Cruel Ultimatum, which is why it isn't a strict 2.0 upgrade. It is, however, good enough to be a seven mana spell that can simply win games that you have no business winning, which is why it even resembles Cruel Ultimatum. (You like how I explained my irrelevant naming convention? You're welcome.)

Getting that out of the way, here is the final list I decided on:

Vengeance Control by Frank Lepore
Main Deck
2 Olivia Voldaren
4 Snapcaster Mage
Creatures [6]
2 Chandra, the Firebrand
Planeswalkers [2]
1 Batterskull
2 Black Sun's Zenith
2 Dissipate
2 Doom Blade
2 Druidic Satchel
3 Forbidden Alchemy
3 Galvanic Blast
1 Go for the Throat
4 Mana Leak
2 Sorin's Vengeance
3 Think Twice
1 Volition Reins
Spells [26]
4 Darkslick Shores
3 Dragonskull Summit
3 Drowned Catacomb
6 Island (253)
1 Mountain (259)
1 Stensia Bloodhall
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Swamp (256)
Lands [26]
Deck Total [60]

1 Curse of Death's Hold
1 Dissipate
2 Flashfreeze
1 Go for the Throat
1 Gut Shot
2 Negate
3 Phantasmal Image
1 Sorin's Thirst
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Tribute to Hunger
Sideboard [15]

Click for full deck stats & notes!

And the games...

Vengeance Control vs. UW Delver, Match 1, Game 1

Vengeance Control vs. UW Delver, Match 1, Game 2

Vengeance Control vs. UW Delver, Match 1, Game 3

Vengeance Control vs. WUR Control, Match 1, Game 1

Vengeance Control vs. WUR Control, Match 1, Game 2

Vengeance Control vs. UB Heartless Summoning, Match 1, Game 1

Vengeance Control vs. UB Heartless Summoning, Match 1, Game 2

Vengeance Control vs. Esper Forgemaster, Match 1, Game 1

Vengeance Control vs. Esper Forgemaster, Match 1, Game 2

I apologize for the quality of these games. Heck, the UB Heartless Summoning opponent didn't even show up for game three and timed out! I also played a match against Haunted Humans, and my mic cut out in game three.

You might notice that this is Timothy Jansen's list from the SCG Open in St. Louis where he made Top 8. When I asked Tim about it, he said he felt terrible for getting credit since the deck actually came from MTGO player, _Soku_. Props to you, Tim, for giving credit where credit is due! And props to me, for doing the same! Props all around!

Nonetheless, I went ahead and made some changes to the initial list after playing with the deck a good deal. Even from the first math to subsequent matches minor changes were made. I like the card Life's Finale, I just didn't like it here. You only want to play it against Wolf Run when they have a creature in play, and usually that's going to be a Titan. Then you spend your turn wiping it away and they get a free turn to bash your face in with Inkmoth Nexus for 12,000 (approximation). At this point the damage is usually done and they don't care if you put three guys in their graveyard. Against Illusions, if you've lived long enough to play Finale, then you're probably in fine shape. If you aren't, then it probably won't resolve anyway. And you never want to put three guys into their grumper here since it's basically just Moorland Haunt fodder!

One card I did want to try, as a threat, a way to stabilize, and a way to close out games quicker, was Batterskull. So that was an easy exchange. Flores was also toting the merits of Curse of Death's Hold. I love that card, so I put one into the main deck. Know what happened? Against Illusions they O-Ringed it (hard for Grixis to deal with an O-Ring; might need some number of Ratchet Bombs somewhere), and against Wolf Run it requires you to tap out so they can play a Titan. While the Curse neutralizes the Inkmoths they might get, now they simply kill you with a pumped Titan. If the deck was playing things like Sphere of the Suns - which has been a very serious consideration for me lately - then I might be a little more in favor, but tapping out for a Curse seems like bad juju. The difference between it and Batterskull, the other five drop, is that you can hold the Batterskull until your comfortable, ideally waiting until you have eight land to bounce in a pinch; if you're sitting there holding the Curse, you're still getting pounded by Inkmoths.

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Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Batterskull Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Another card that I wanted to try (and ended up working spectacularly) was Druidic Satchel. At first I added a Tribute to Hunger to the list. Then I realized despite how awesome "sacrifice" effects are, they don't really do what you want them to right now. More often than not you simply want to get rid of a Thrun or a Geist, but those decks can simply animate an Inkmoth in response or sac some other smaller creature, respectively. So I took out the Tribute and added a single Druidic Satchel. It kind of does it all: it gives you life against the red decks (or the aggressive decks in general), it can give you gentlemen to block with, and it can give you free Rampant Growths. It also gives you something to do with all the mana you accumulate, which is a good amount. I ended up liking the card so much I added a second!

the last change I made was the addition of a single Volition Reins. It takes the place of Life's Finale in a way, since it gets rid of a troublesome creature from Ramp, but this time you get to keep it, which is much more useful. In addition, you can take things like land, artifacts and even Planeswalkers with it. It's pretty versatile, and I think it's a fairly unexpected option right now.

While this is all good and great, none of it actually addresses the actual purpose of the deck, which is to simply dominate with Sorin's Vengeance. This card is fantastic, and you're usually always able to know when it's safe to go off, or simply have time to wait it out. This is definitely a deck that enjoys playing the long game, and is one of the only decks in recent memory where I've risked going to time on Magic Online. Of course playing it in real life is much different, since you don't have to click on six individual lands to activate Stensia Bloodhall, but I digress. In addition to the two Sorin's Vengeance, you also have four Snapcaster Mages and two Chandra, the Firebrand, which essentially act like six more copies of Sorin's Vengeance. This is usually more than enough.

In addition to the Vengeance, it's more than acceptable (and possible) to win via Stensia Bloodhall,Olivia Voldaren and Snapcaster Mages (and now Batterskull). This deck is simply awesome, and I think it's one of the more powerful things you can do in the format. There's no feeling like your opponent being at ten life (from a Vengeance), while you reveal a Snapcaster Mage off the top from a Druidic Satchel. Most of the time, they scoop on the spot.

One of the main problems with the sideboard is the lack of artifact removal. It's heavily geared toward the control matchups and the Ramp matchup, but it needs an efficient way to deal with cards like Batterskull, Sword and Feast and Famine, and I've recently seen some Witchbane Orbs which absolutely wreck this deck, effectively shutting off Bloodhall, Vengeance, and Chandra. It doesn't hurt that artifact removal would also do double duty against Inkmoth Nexus.

Other than that, the deck feels very well rounded. It also feels very much like a combo deck, where you have to assemble the pieces. Certain times you just “know” you have it. I definitely recommend picking this deck up, but I also definitely recommend getting in some practice games with it. It's not the easiest deck to play and since the games often go long, there are that many more decisions to make.

Well, that's all I have for this week! Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next week!

Frank Lepore
@FrankLepore on Twitter

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